Standing by my staff in the fight against Gove


Michael Gove courted controversy when he wrote to headteachers urging them to dock the pay of teachers carrying out industrial action. However, his letter was not welcomed by our headteacher diarist...

It is a new year, but the same old Michael Gove hyperbole. 

You know the statements that if said often enough move from being urban myth to reality: local authority perceived as mediocre, unambitious, failing and outstanding schools serving favoured catchment areas perceived as being radical, forward-thinking, ambitious.

So what does the new year bring? The latest “challenge” – or fight if you want to be realistic – comes with his latest intimidatory edict that arrived in my post box on December 30 (happy new year). 

The headline was: “Gove urges heads to dock pay with a letter being sent to them by the end of December.”

Will I xxxx is my glib reply. My school, like many schools, serves a diverse community and I expect and get a lot from every member of staff whether they are teaching or support staff.

We currently offer our students seven trips abroad, 24 extra-curricular weekly clubs, constant review, reflection on the teaching of all our classes, even those in the leaking mobile buildings that still remain due to the unimaginative closure of the BSF programme. 

Our challenge as a team is to stand behind our young people and make a difference. Therefore, as headteacher, I stand with my staff, those who fall below our standards are rigorously challenged but until their standards are falling I do not challenge retrospectively. 

This is becoming the favoured move of this government and Mr Gove has to be careful and his thoughts need to be clear – he is hugely unpopular, not trusted and will not win the support of this intelligent profession by confrontation. 

As Professor John Hattie has found in his groundbreaking research of what works in schools, “teacher credibility” has moved in to the top five.

How someone gets credibility and respect is extremely difficult, but Mr Gove, it certainly is not gained by intimidation and confrontation, nor is it gained by doing nothing or pointing out the obvious (Labour’s Stephen Twigg).

Respect is about working hard and following through a vision that is not blown off course by the Daily Mail or the latest snowball!

So my hope for this year for my school is that we: 

  • Make an impact on the literacy skills of our young people, not an easy challenge in our technological age where 17 per cent of our households claim not to have a desk

  • Continue to challenge the misuse of language, particularly the use of the word “gay”.

  • Focus on our Pupil Premium students.

You can see from these challenges that we have followed the Ofsted message, but we will not go down the EBacc route that is so obviously unsuitable for a significant proportion of our young people. It is unsuitable for a city and country in the midst of a recession with students requiring skills and talents that are not simply produced via the exam room and the testing of academic knowledge.

For schools, I hope we will stand together and keep our moral compass. By this I mean do what is right for the children of our community, not what is right for the Ofsted judgement and the Conservative government.

Umberto Eco, the Italian philosopher, said: “Learning does not consist only of knowing what we must or we can do but also for knowing what we could do and perhaps should not do.”

This is a good mantra for the new year and one that should be at the forefront of our thinking.

  • Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.


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